Ophite: Gnosis, p. 2

Art: Gennifer Bone & Adam Black

Art: Gennifer Bone & Adam Black

People don’t explain their urgent conversations to imaginary third-party listeners who just showed up. (Sorry …) But hang on, suffice to say things are hot and moving fast, and you’ll see what’s up real soon.

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About Ron Edwards

Game author, publisher, consultant, teacher

Posted on December 3, 2016, in Adept Comics, Ophite and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Santiago Verón

    This morning I was reading you notes about gnosticism in one of your games in development, “Shine a light”. I found myself thinking, wouldn’t worshipping snake figures make you look kinda sinister? Even if you go back in time a lot, before the association between snakes and Satan, snakes are dangerous.

    Then again so are lions, and Christians everywhere worship the figure of a person being tortured and even bleeding (well, at least Catholics, I can’t really talk for the other denominations).

    But I couldn’t help but think that if I were a Gnostic on the first days, I’d teach that the animal that brought knowledge in the Garden of Eden was a wide eyed puppy. Why keep the snake?


    (Thought about e-mailing you, but I already did about a different RPG topic, plus I thought this could also fit here.)

    P.S. Just before posting I thought, snakes are also venomous. I’m trying to think of other venomous creatures that can be seen in a good light in Western culture… or other cultures… (Now I’m thinking about your other blog too ^_^ poison could deserve another discussion, like the ones about blood, air and warmth. Thinking about the lion I’m also intrigued about mammals, rabies, werewolves and zombies… Aaand I should probably put a cap on this comment right now! ^_^ )

    P.P.S. It always fascinates me that Stan Lee could make such a popular hero with an “evil” animal like spiders, and also that Spider-Man is so remarkably non-venomous, AND ALSO that his 90s arch-nemesis dark version was called “Venom”. Now I’m thinking about Batman and Bane and his “venom” (and actually his mask design, is Bane a Venom “rip off”?), aaaaand I have to stop myself again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the tags here at the blog is “snake fetish” …

    I had some tricky decisions to make about the Sophia powers. The obvious thing would be to give each one a distinct snake-set, one being a constrictor, one being venomous, et cetera. The only problem with that is how many times it’s been done, and being chained to the legacy of not being very effective – even if I were to try to break that chain, it would take over the point of the characters. So Genn and I decided to go a different way, giving them similar outfits and unique, personal powers.

    Each one is still pretty snake-ish though, and you’ll see the venomous part up-close and personal later in this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I was all over the place with my previous comment, but I find myself still wondering, why would ancient Gnostics worship snakes? Claiming that the Promethean figure on Eden was a friendlier animal seems like the better PR move to me.


      • Your concept of snakes as an intrinsically negative image may not apply to the area of origin.

        1. If you research the archeology and contemporary sources from Mycenae, 1200 BCE or so, what you find is an earth-cult with a lot of caves, darkness, snakes, and earthy heroes. You can find all sorts of positive snake imagery throughout the next millenium. Even more significant is the long-standing Egyptian tradition, especially Wadjet, cobra goddess of the lower Nile, patroness of a very long-lived, prosperous, educated, and mercantile culture.

        (Side point: most of our modern concept of “ancient Greek” and related mythology comes from secondary sources like Homer that date from 500-600 years later, and textual references to it that come 300 years later than that. The classical Greek pantheon in the Iliad, for example, never existed in a cultural or religious sense. And that’s not even counting the Christian-British-isms that were added in the 19th century which most people think are original to the sources.)

        2. The period of the Gnostics is from later of course, during the early Common Era, and all our sources come from the opposition, the centralized church in Constantinople. No one knows if the term Ophite (“snake-ist”) was merely descriptive or if the snake element was vulnerable to negative depiction due to the animal itself.

        3. The dedicated association between the snake in the Garden of Eden and any sort of larger adversary (Satan, the Devil, the World Spirit) is from much later, during the medieval and feudal periods. One may suggest that snakes were already or automatically considered to be bad, but that’s supposition. I suspect this was also specific to the Roman Catholic Church and western Europe, but I’m not sure. I’d like to learn more about associations or claims of this kind from the Orthodox Church, which until the Crusades and especially the 1500s was by far the more culturally prevalent religious influence throughout the hemisphere.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh! It’s also worth mentioning that during the period we denote as the end of BCE and the beginning of CE, the texts we’re talking about – or even better, their more generalized progenitors – were not only widespread educated knowledge, but embedded cultural knowledge. The Garden and the snake were known factors of “the story,” and the argument over acceptable content for the early Church (I mean the documented institution, not some fictional nucleus) was working with that story. I don’t think changing one of the characters – “it wasn’t a snake, it was a puppy!” – was an option.

        Just because it’s impossible not to riff on this topic, both Paul’s writings and the Gospel according to John are hard-core Gnostic texts, and the eventual Bible-organization as settled upon by the early Church has to do a lot of hand-waving to reconcile its anti-Gnostic stance with the content, i.e., how you’re “supposed” to interpret it. My interpretation is that broadly-defined grassroots Christianity included incredibly diverse interpretations, that the early Church was forced to include many texts that were cherished in local regions in order to be authoritative in or to claim to represent those regions, and that the anti-Gnostic vs. Gnostic question was a late question rather than an early or defining one for Christianity as a cultural phenomenon (rather than an institutional one).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks A LOT!!! I wanted to know all of that ^_^ I’ll keep my eye open for benevolent snake gods in other cultures! This is all very interesting 🙂


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